Where do ideas come from?

Answer: From anywhere and everywhere, and often when you least expect it. Here’s one example.

A writer and art director are working together on a new savings campaign for Geico. It’s late at night at the agency. Everybody else has gone home.

The creative team is stuck. Really stuck. They have a few ideas, but they both conclude they suck–the ideas and themselves. This is not uncommon among creative thinkers. We spend most of our working lives thinking we suck. And the truth is, more often than not, we do. Anyway, back to my story.

Like I said, it’s late. They’re tired. Out of boredom the art director tells the writer a joke. The set up just before the punchline is, “But I do have some good news.” What’s funny about the joke is the good news has nothing to do with the set up. It takes a hard right turn. And from that moment on, the Good News campaign for Geico starts to take form.

Geico puts a unique kind of pressure on the people who work on it. It’s the kind of pressure every creative person dreams of. Each one of us knows how extremely lucky we are to be working for a client who not only believes in the power of creative thinking, they demand it.

I often compare the Geico brand to a sandbox. Year after year, the brand gives us permission to discover entirely new places to play. Just as important, Geico also gives us permission to keep making the sandbox bigger.

We create new characters and storylines. We run multiple ad campaigns at one time. And each story gives prospective customers yet another reason to switch to Geico.

In analyzing the Good News campaign, the writer put it this way:

“It’s based on an easy-to-remember, easy-to-tell, all-purpose joke. Anybody can tell it at any time in any situation. The set up is always different. But the punchline is always the same.”

But I do have some good news. I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico.

Just one week after the campaign broke, an airline pilot told the joke to explain why the plane was delayed on the tarmac. (The art director who helped create the campaign just happened to be on that flight.) And in the weeks and years to follow, everyone from late-night hosts to celebrities to NFL players were telling the joke unprompted and unpaid.

There’s no question that the Geico brand has a huge effect on popular culture. In other blogs I’ll talk more about The Geico Effect and why Geico’s YouTube channel has more subscribers than some entrainment brands.

Published by bassetts49

50 years in advertising, 20 years as the creative lead on Geico. A life in creative thinking.

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